By Genalyn Kabiling
Amid warnings of a possible explosive eruption of Taal Volcano, President Duterte has approved several government recommendations to ensure public security and health, including declaring Taal Volcano Island as “no man’s land.”
The President has also prohibited evacuees from returning to their homes near the restive volcano until the situation is declared safe.
“As of this moment, Taal Volcano continues to be on the Alert Level 4. Medyo wala munang babalik doon hangggat hindi makakalma (No one is allowed to return until it has calmed down),” Duterte said during his visit to the families taking shelter at an education center in Batangas City.
“Nobody is allowed to go back until such time that you are safe.”
Duterte was in Batangas City to attend a situation briefing on government’s disaster relief efforts and visit over a thousand families displaced by the volcanic activity. He offered P160 million worth of assistance to the evacuees staying in the Batangas shelter.
Faced with a possible explosive eruption of Taal Volcano, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the President approved the recommendation to ban human settlement on the volcano island.
“It was approved,” Lorenzana said in a text message. “(The) DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) will implement but Sec. (Eduardo) Año said will need funds to relocate the residents.”
Lorenzana recommended to the President that Taal Island be declared “no man’s land.”
“Huwag na pabalikin ang tao doon (Don’t let people return there), dahil kung merong (because if there are) more violent explosion, the people there will perish in that island,” Lorenzana said in the situation briefing.
Duterte told Lorenzana: “We will have to depend heavily on… I know you cannot make projections unless there is an activity there which can be seen visually or it manifests itself into fumes.”
Earlier, Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña presented, at the situation briefing, five recommendations including a proposed ban on human settlement on the volcano island.
He said there should be “an implementation of a ‘no human settlement’ policy in Taal Volcano Island which is a permanent danger zone” and proposed the total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and other high-risk areas situated within the 14-kilometer radius from the main crater.
He likewise advised the public “to prepare for heavy and prolonged ash falls” from Taal Volcano. He added that volcanic ash can weaken structures so it should be removed as soon as possible to prevent collapse.
He said civil aviation authorities must also advise aircraft to avoid the airspace around the volcano and areas that may be affected by ash cloud.
“Lastly, we recommend that we should finalize hazard-sensitive land use plans for the towns surrounding the volcano,” he said.
Reacting to the report, the President said he has approved government recommendations. “They are all approved. I approved it because it is good for the people. This is an issue of public order and security and an issue of health.”
He recognized that one of the government’s functions is “to come up with measures to protect public interest, public safety, public health.”
The President, meantime, pledged that the government would continue to assist the communities affected by Taal’s ash explosion. The assistance includes food supplies, relief items, and clearing of roads.
“I am here to help the people affected by the eruption. I will do everything to help people to return to normalcy,” he said. “The first thing you should do if there’s a crisis is get back to normalcy immediately.”
Duterte assured the families affected by the calamity that the government is here to serve the people. “We are workers in government and we serve the people.”